It may surprise you to know that the leading cause of death in men over fifty is heart disease. Heart disease is a category that covers a range of problems including heart failure, heart muscle disease and cardiomyopathy, vascular disease and heart attacks. There are a number of factors that contribute to the high death rate caused by heart disease such as smoking, high blood pressure, obesity and high cholesterol. Early signs of heart disease include difficulty catching your breath, squeezing in your chest and dizziness or fainting. If these symptoms go untreated for a long period of time the result is heart failure and possible loss of life. So if you suffer from obesity, smoke or struggle to keep active this guide will help you on your way to a healthier lifestyle.
Currently, 2.2 billion members of the world’s population are overweight. Even if you aren’t considered obese, being overweight causes and exacerbates many health issues including heart disease, which could be avoided by pursuing a healthier lifestyle. One of the best methods to tackle weight issues is by quitting snacking. Believe it or not, snacking is not about restricting the amount that you eat. In fact one of the most effective ways to stave off the urge to snack is by ensuring that you eat three square meals a day. Set specific times for you meals and your healthy interim snacks, this organization will help you to stick to a healthy eating plan and keep track of what food you consume.
You should also ensure that you drink plenty of water, as many confuse the feeling of dehydration with the feeling of hunger. Another great means of preventing unnecessary snacking is by making it difficult for yourself. Instead of keeping a biscuit tin or bowl of sweets at your desk, store them in a separate place. Putting distance between you and the unhealthy snacks will make you think twice about what you consume. If this doesn’t work for you, get rid of the unhealthy snacks altogether and refrain from buying them- out of sight out of mind.
Statistics published in 2016 by the Office for National Statistics showed that where only 14.1% of adult females still smoked in the UK, that figure rose considerably to 17.7% amongst adult males. As well as this, smoking is the primary cause of preventable illness and premature death, accounting for approximately 96,000 mortalities a year in the UK. Unsurprisingly, smoking causes 90% of lung cancer cases in the UK. Moreover, smoking also causes heart attacks, strokes, impotence and reduced fertility in both men and women.
Giving up smoking may initially seem like an insurmountable task, however there are a number of methods available that make the journey towards a smoke-free lifestyle much easier. First and foremost identify when you crave cigarettes, it could be stress, boredom or even the time of day that acts as a trigger. Once you have identified the cause of your craving you can preempt it and prepare. As cravings generally last for five minutes, plan some distraction activities to complete during these times.
Although you may be excited to begin your non-smoking life, it’s advisable to quit slowly rather than going cold turkey as those that stop smoking abruptly are more likely to relapse. One effective aid for quitting is nicotine replacement devices such as e-cigarettes. E-cigarettes are recommended by the NHS as healthier alternatives to smoking, and are more effective than nicotine patches or gum. Vaping means that you would still get your nicotine fix, but without the over 400 toxic chemicals that come with actual cigarettes.
Adopting an Active Approach
If you have a sedentary but time-consuming job you no doubt find it difficult to locate the time for exercise. Although this is understandable, physical activity is absolutely essential to reducing your risk of heart disease, maintaining a healthy weight, and reducing blood pressure as well as cholesterol. But exercise doesn’t have to be plodding away on a treadmill or lifting weights in a dingy gym. The key to keeping active is finding a form of exercise that you absolutely love, whether it’s volleyball, bouldering, rowing, or yoga.
In terms of quantity, the British Heart Foundation recommends 150 minutes of moderate activity a week. Moderate exercise includes activities like fast walking, tennis or riding a bike. Although 150 minutes may sound like a lot, it can be broken down into smaller, manageable sessions. If you really struggle to find the time for exercise outside of work, there are ways to keep active during your professional day. Consider cycling to the office if possible. If you use public transport, get off a couple of stops early and walk the rest of the way. Take the stairs instead of the lift, and walk instead of calling or emailing somebody in the workplace.
Keeping Stress Level to a Minimum
Although stress is not a direct cause of heart disease, it can raise your risk indirectly. As previously mentioned, stress can be a trigger for behaviours that negatively effect your heart such as smoking, consuming drugs, overeating or drinking large quantities of alcohol. Feelings of anxiety or stress can also bring on symptoms of angina, such as chest pain and shortness of breath.
If you do find that you get stressed easily, there are a number of ways to keep these feelings in check. Whilst exercising and eating healthily are fundamental to managing stress levels, there are other factors too. The feeling that your life is out of control makes stress worse, yet often better planning and preparation can help to abate these anxieties. Make a list of tasks, placing the highest priority jobs at the top and the lowest at the bottom. Give each of these tasks a time frame and work through them steadily. This will make your situation more manageable and allow you to take charge.
Another important element that keeps stress at bay is spending time with your family and friends. Remember that those closest to you are your support network and will be happy to listen whilst you get a few things off of your chest. Often simply vocalizing the source of your worries reduces stress tremendously.
Recognizing the Warning Signs
Below is a comprehensive list of symptoms of heart disease. Experiencing one or more of the symptoms does not necessarily mean that you are suffering from heart disease, however it is important to get these checked out with your doctor if you are worried or feel anything out of the ordinary.
- A feeling of pressure, squeezing or tightness in the middle of your chest
- The sensation that the pain has travelled from your chest to your arms (typically the left), jaw, neck, back or abdomen
- Shortness of breath
- Nausea or vomiting
- Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
- Coughing or wheezing
- Fatigue or confusion
- Severe headaches
- Irregular heartbeat
- Vision problems
- An overwhelming sense of anxiety, similar to the feeling of having a panic attack
- Blood in your urine
Remember that although chest pain can be severe, some people may only experience minor twinges, similar to indigestion, so it’s better to be safe than sorry and pay a visit to your doctor.
Ultimately all men should be doing the above in order to reduce their risk of heart disease. Trying to eat healthily or get enough exercise may seem tedious at times, but all of the above will benefit both your mental and physical health, improving your quality of life. Remember that you only have one body and your health is priceless.